Supreme Court Justice: We Risk 1984 Orwellian World

November 9th, 2011
in econ_news

GPS-tracking-system-4 Econintersect: Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer had warning words for America Tuesday (November 8). Sarah Peters, writing at, reported on comments made by the high court justices as they heard arguments in a drug dealing case in which warrant less tracking of a suspect was carried out using a GPS tracking device. The case involved a suspect for whom GPS tracking was continued after the authorizing warrant had expired.  (Picture shows a satellite controlled GPS tracking system, artist's impresion.)

Follow up:

The extended tracking period did lead to evidence that resulted in conviction of the suspect and led to the constitutional law challenge by the defendant. Peters reported:

Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what a democratic society would look like if people believed the government was tracking them for days at a time.

"If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” Breyer said. “So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like1984 from their brief."

The federal case was presented by U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben who argued that, if “all Americans” viewed warrantless tracking as Orwellian invasion of privacy, Congress could correct with legislation.

Chief Justice John Roberts sounded more sanguine when he indicated that he saw GPS tracking giving law enforcement a useful “mosaic” of the “whole picture.”


Hat tip to Russell Huntley.

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